Oct 28, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Kid Loki

Back Issue Ben contributes to Thor Month, covering...

Loki and Leah: Excellence in Teenage Mischief
Ben Smith

I could make yet another futile attempt to wax poetic about the subject of this week’s amazing selection of comic books, but you and I both know I’m about as qualified at that as Balder is at stand-up comedy. Look, among my veritable sixes of readers, I think I’ve engendered a certain amount of expectation about the level of quality in my writing, and that is none. With very little research acting as the side salad to my meaty entrée of incompetence in words aligned to form read-y things.

Regardless, this time out I am recommending with the utmost highness, as I usually do, Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery, starring kid Loki, running from #622–645. Since this is one of those books I can’t possibly encapsulate in any competent way because it’s fairly complex (for me, since I’m not entirely confident I ever learned to read) I’m going to share with you some of my favorite panels from the series. Favorite because they are the ones that made me giggle the most, like a children’s toy that just won’t shut off, until you smash it into pieces and hide in the trash before the kids get home (not that I would know).

“Kid Loki?” you may ask. Yes, following the event s of the crossover event Siege, Loki found himself dead and then resurrected as a young boy, with no recollection of his previous evil existence (this was all established during Fraction’s fairly decent run on Thor, which isn’t covered here). After the launch of The Mighty Thor title by Fraction and Olivier Coipel, the title of the Thor book was changed back into Journey Into Mystery, with Gillen and a rotating cast of artists (with Richard Elson being the artist during my favorite stretch of the run).

Gillen’s run starts out somewhat unfortunately as a Fear Itself tie-in, but let that not deter you my friends. While Fear Itself was so bad that when I sacrificially burned the issues and it released ghouls into my basement that still plague us to this day, the JiM tie-ins were actually quite entertaining. Not as good as later issues, but the events of the issues are relevant enough later on that I can’t bring myself to recommend that they be skipped.

It’s established here at the beginning that kid Loki is still very much the clever schemer and trickster, but from all appearances he seems to be working for the good of Asgard, instead of against (it could definitely be interpreted that he is just as self-serving as ever, but I choose to read it as him acting with the best of intentions). The trick however, seems to be that he ends up causing probably more damage with good intentions than he ever did with the worst. Every problem that he solves ends up creating yet another bigger problem for the future, which creates the impression that he’s kind of working one problem at a time (again, it could be interpreted that everything was all part of one grand scheme, but I choose to believe that he was scheming on the fly).

As anyone that finished Fear Itself knows (and why would you ever submit yourself to such torture) Thor died fulfilling his destiny to defeat the Serpent. Kid Loki’s schemes behind the scenes ensured the prophecy would take place, saving Midgard but effectively signing Thor’s death warrant.

As a result of one of his actions during the conflict, Loki came into possession of a litter of Hel-wolf pups. One-by-one he found homes for six of the seven pups, with him deciding to keep the final and most unruly (and most hilarious) of the wolves for himself, rather than destroying him. Loki, distraught over the loss of his brother (and only advocate and protector) names the Hel-wolf Thori.

Along the way, Loki also obtained an unwilling ally in the form of Leah, hand-maiden to a certain caretaker of Hel (it’s an anagram, figure it out). Leah is absolutely fantastic, with her deadpan angry comments never failing to amuse me (think Aubrey Plaza on Parks and Recreation).

Many of the more humorous moments involve Loki and Leah talking about discovering modern technology, like the internet or Starkphones.

Loki’s next mission finds them working with Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, to prevent Nightmare from harvesting all the fear energy left over from the Serpent’s attack on Earth.

One of the more entertaining aspects of the run were the recap pages at the beginning of each issue. Gillen seems to have a real skill for making the recap pages of his books something you actually want to read, and these always managed to amuse me (not that that is difficult).

Thori is so weirdly cute.

Next, Loki and Leah are covertly sent to Otherworld, to settle a conflict before it spills out into any of the other pantheons. Here we witness another instance of Loki doing what he believes to be the right thing to do, reinforcing the belief that he is trying to act with the best of intentions.

Plus, Loki and Leah put on Guy Fawkes masks at one point.

At this point Thor had been returned to the living, and the book ended with an inter-title crossover with The Mighty Thor books titled Everything Burns, where all of Loki’s recent actions converge into yet another Ragnarok-level crisis for Asgard. A highly entertaining tale that manages to expertly weave every previous story of Gillen’s run all into one massive conflict.

Journey Into Mystery wasn’t just a collection of moments of dry humor and clever scheming though, as there were some real moments of genuine emotion and heartbreak throughout. None more so than the final issue of the run, where Loki’s bird Ikol (also an anagram, figure it out) plays a bigger role than anyone could have imagined. A truly emotionally devastating end to a spectacular run that is guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye. (Unless you happen to be an emotionless robot, in which case, let me go ahead and state now that when you and your race of mechanical overlords take over the planet, I am more than willing to assist in exchange for my survival. Even if it means some kind of slave position, or even a zoo type of scenario, whatever it takes.)

Kid Loki’s run on Journey Into Mystery was immediately followed up by an equally excellent run featuring Sif. During my recent obsessive binge-reading of all things Thor, I’ve arrived at several truths, one of which being that I believe Thor has one of the better supporting casts in all of superhero comics. I never would have believed Loki, or Sif, or the Warriors Three, or even Thor himself would be favorite characters of mine, but now they very much are. Not only that, I think they are some of the stronger and therefore easier characters to spin-off into their own solo adventures, especially against a wide canvas like Asgard or the Nine Worlds. (Much more so than the overrated cast of Batman, who have rarely had a memorable storyline outside of the main Bat-books. As much as I love the concept and idea of Nightwing, his comics have been fairly boring outside of the Teen Titans or Batman. And don’t even try to come at me with Tim Drake, those comics where terrible.) Unlike Iron Man or Spider-Man, who might get lucky if they have a really engaging love interest or best friend capable of supporting their own book, the Asgardians are all warriors and heroes in their own right, making them that much more capable of supporting comics on their own.

Unfortunately, I can only assume most of the comics reading audience has never discovered just how wonderful and entertaining these characters really are. I certainly was one of those readers up until very recently, with me saying on many occasions throughout my existence that Thor is a character I couldn’t imagine ever reading on a consistent basis. Now, every time I think I’m done digging into back issues for adventures of the mighty Thor, I wind up finding myself going back for more, and more, and more.

What better recommendation could you ever need?

You can read the adventure of Kid Loki in the following books:

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